MS Open-Source Move Is Straight from Playbook

According to Linux & Open-Source Center Editor Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Microsoft is finally deploying the anti-open-source plans outlined in its Halloween memo by releasing an open-source program.

I confess that Microsoft has been surprising me a lot in the past few days. First, Microsoft paid Sun off, and then it released Windows Installer XML (WiX), a command line toolkit for building Windows installation packages from XML source code and vice-versa under the Common Public License (CPL) of the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

Although no programmers household name, WiX isnt a toy program. Its being used in upcoming versions of brand-name Microsoft products such as Office and Exchange. And in case youre wondering, CPL is a real, no-BS, open-source license.

So, whats going on here? Is Microsoft converting to the open-source religion? Hardly. I think theyre continuing to implement plans for battling open source that Microsoft staffers first outlined back in 1998s Halloween memo.

In that strategy memo, Microsoft staffers suggested that by embracing and extending open protocols, Microsoft could freeze open source out of the marketplace. Jason Matusow, manager of Microsofts shared-source initiative, may say to my colleague Mary Jo Foley, "Weve been learning from open source about the importance of sharing code with developers," and thats true, but thats only part of the story.

Long before Microsoft learned the "importance of sharing code," it learned that to beat any competitor, it should "embrace and extend" that competitors technology. Want to take over the Internet? Embrace Web browsing technology with a free browser, Internet Explorer, thats incorporated into the operating system, and extend it with proprietary "enhancements" that make other browsers look bad. It worked.

So, although some people rave about how great Mozilla, Opera and Firefox are, according to, Internet Explorer this January had a total global-usage share of 94.8 percent. Second place went to Mozilla with an almost insignificant 1.8 percent, and Opera 7 came in with a global usage of 0.8 percent.

Next page: Embrace and extend in action.